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Coverage of central and northern New York's congressional races, including the primary races and the general election.Races covered include the 24th Congressional District, currently held by Rep. John Katko (R-Camillus), who is running for reelection; the 22nd Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Barneveld), who is retiring; and the 21st Congressional District, currently held by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro).

21st congressional candidates spar over environmental policies

Mountain Lake Public Television
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) debates with Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello and Democratic candidate Mike Derrick.

The three candidates running in New York's 21st Congressional District argued about the environment and climate change in a debate on Mountain Lake Public Television Monday night. Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello said the U.S. needs to take immediate action to get off of dirty fossil fuel energy sources like natural gas and coal and switch to 100 percent renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

"The Greens are saying 'Green New Deal,'" Funiciello said. "Let's employ 20 million people, full employment, living wages - rebuilding a fossil-free United States of America depending on renewable energy."

Funiciello also said Congress should start factoring the environmental consequences into its decisions.

"Every single bill passed by Congress should have a climate change contingent in it where we're trying to reduce carbon ppms," he said. 

Democratic candidate Mike Derrick suggested a more relaxed transition from fossil fuel sources to a system that favors renewable energy.

"There's many creative and good ways to do that using market forces," Derrick said. 

Derrick also noted that incumbent Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro) has one of the worst environmental voting records among New York's congressional delegation as rated by the League of Conservation Voters.

"How she has voted and what she says are entirely different," Derrick said. "When we have this wonderful environment here in northern New York state, and the Adirondack Park, that is something which is absolutely inconsistent with representation in this district."

Stefanik fired back by reminding Derrick that he was not endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters. She defended her record, noting that she is listed as one of the most independent members of Congress. Stefanik said she has split from her party on the environment multiple times, acknowledging a human impact in climate change and supporting legislation that offers tax credits to renewable energy projects.

"I'm working with environmental groups in this district to make sure we pursue the correct approach which is a balanced approach: protecting our jobs while also protecting our environment," Stefanik said. "I want to invest in innovation and to continue investing in those renewable energy sources through tax credits."

The 21st Congressional District stretches across the state’s North Country.